As many of you know, Tony and I are expecting. At the end of November, around Thanksgiving Day to be exact, baby P is expected to arrive. Although Tony and I already know the gender, the rest of you will have to wait until our cake cutting Gender Reveal party this coming Saturday, August 5th. In this essay, I will alternate between him/her pronouns since "it" feels kind of forced.
As I approach the birth of my first child, I am reflecting on some parenting values I want to instill in him.
I know I want him to grow up a kind, generous, and reflective person. I want him to love and care for animals (not just cats), to be academically conscious, and respect her parents/grandparents/teachers/strangers. I want to pass my travel bug along to her and teach her the importance of appreciating different cultures.
I realize that all these values I wrote below could very possibly be out of the window once baby P is here. With all my essence, I hope they won't. I was in Chile for the first four and a half months of my pregnancy, refusing to give up on the Fulbright grant, so I do hope that I have that strength to uphold the below values when the baby is here.
Additionally, when things get tough (and they will), I hope to revisit this list to motivate me and remind me that I am doing the right thing as a mother.
~~So, here are some parenting values I hope to uphold~~
1. I will be tough but not mean.
I am certainly a disciplinarian (a. I am Russian, and b. I am a teacher) but discipline should not hurt/demean/mentally or physically scar the child. I will teach her to respect his/her parents, grandparents, and, most importantly, teachers.
2. I will talk to my child as if he were an adult.
For example, I hear parents use words like "beep-beep" to say "car". I hope to adhere to a basic rule: language is beautiful, and there are plenty of other ways to get creative and be understood. I am not saying that I will use PhD level language and do data driven statistic presentations to them, but I will not manipulate the language or "dumb it down" for the kid.
3. I will promote the importance of reading and the UNimportance of television.
I will read to him (even if it's just one page) and expect other family members who want to spend extended time with the kid, to read with him as well (i.e. any relatives when they visit). And here is what too much television does to a kid's cognitive and social development.
4. I will sleep train my child to sleep in a separate bed and be ok with it.
Too many horror stories of toddlers sleeping in the same bed as parents, and the work it takes to get them to transition into their own bed.
5. I will teach my child the importance of independent play.
A child should be able to entertain himself for however long. The older they get, the longer they can play independently so perhaps start with 5 minutes, then 10 minutes. When I think back to my childhood, I wasn't entertained; I occupied myself with what I had available -toys, books, records (yep, vinyl records), dirt, sticks, leaves, old keys, cats. I see so many parents constantly trying to find something to do for their kids thus robbing them of that necessary independence. I am not saying not to supervise the child and leave her to fend for herself in the back yard. But I will try to show her that sometimes it will be necessary to play alone and, most importantly, know how to self-entertain. In fact, packing kid's days with activities provides constant stimuli, and I think it's good for them to be bored once in a while.
6. I will continue doing what I love.
I have invested so much time, money, and energy into my career as an educator, I cannot possibly let it all go. As many of you know, I am almost done with my Ph.D. (May 2018!). I love teaching, love my school, my students, and my colleagues, so how can I give it all up?... Of course, I will go on the maternity leave but (as my very Russian mother suggested) cannot become a stay at home mom forever. Further down the road, I want to teach the kid the importance of working on your dream. For example, I see myself sitting down to work, and the kid asking "Mom, what are you doing?" And I will say "I am working on my *dream*" And hopefully, he will sit down and work on his *dream* (or build something, or draw) next to me for a bit.
In this area, I have many role models that inspire me, both fellow teachers and administrators from my school. Take, for example, Kathy, my direct supervisor. She has three girls (one very tiny) and still works in the field she loves doing an amazing job. Or, Anna, a colleague, and an incredible teacher, also has three daughters, still teaches and gives a 110% every day. Or Karen, our principal, has two kids and successfully runs our whole school building, every day. I actually want to sit down with those three to ask "How do you do it all and do it so well?..."
7. I will not let motherhood consume me and my identity.
When children come into your life, they take it by storm. Oftentimes, hobbies, interests, and ambitions fall by the way side. The loss of identity after becoming a mother is a trendy topic both with informal blogs and empirical studies.
And it is possible it will happen to me: no time for yoga, no strength to garden, no energy for a get-together with friends or to read a book. But I sure hope that I will retain at least some of my interests in spite of becoming a mother. Perhaps I can take the kid to yoga with me (you know, *mommy and me* kind of yoga class?), or read for 30 minutes before she wakes up, or garden while she is playing with dirt/sticks/leaves (see #5). Motherhood is an all consuming affair but it's essential to remember that we also wear other hats in life.
My own mother's example supports the above statement. She quit working when I was born, to become a stay at home mom and care for me and my brother. She allowed motherhood consume her being and identity, in turn, robbing us (her children) of any air that was left in the room. She became an overbearing, anxious, and untrusting parent. Interestingly, before becoming a stay at home mom, she was an incredible elementary teacher. Oftentimes, her lessons were used as "model lessons" for other elementary teachers. She had the grit, creativity, and patience to be a fabulous teacher. When I analyze her situation now, I wish she'd continued with her career because she was tremendously talented in her craft. Moreover, her staying at home and not having that professional outlet lead her to become clinically depressed which in turn lead her to blame us (her children) for the lack of her happiness and fulfillment.
8. I will try to let go of perfection.
If you know me well enough, you'll know that I have that 'perfectionist air' about me. I know that I will have to let some things go once the baby is here. And if I don't-please do me a favor and remind me. I may not like it, but I'd be most grateful.
9. I will teach my child the importance of being neat and organized.
If he spills something, I will show him that you take a rag, and you clean it. Additionally, many of you know how I feel about clutter. I literally cannot *think* straight when I find myself in a cluttered space for a prolonged period of time. Plus I believe in principals of feng shui, and how your physical environment affects your life. Perhaps we (when the kid is a bit older) can declutter together. Thus, I will teach him/her that stuff is simply stuff, and it's ok and even good for your health to throw things out, donate, or do a yard sale.
10. I will teach them the value of money.
Growing up very poor, I sure know the value of money and how hard it could be to earn it and save it. Although this is further down the road, I want to teach the kid the importance of money, how to handle it in a smart way, how to earn it, how to donate responsibly to causes he/she is passionate about, the value of investing, and the dangers of debt. See, for example, this article from Kiplinger's magazine.
There will be people who will read this, roll their eyes, and say "Honey, when you are holding your own bundle of joy, this list is going to go in the trash." But I sure hope that someone (perhaps a friend, perhaps my husband, or a colleague), will take this list out of the trash and give it to me for future reference.